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Flutter vs native mobile app development: what to choose?

Author

Artem Kovalev

Category

Development

Date

Jun 15, 2021

When thinking of mobile app development, there could be a hard choice when it comes to choosing the core technology involved in the creation process.

So should you choose a native app or build it on Flutter? The fact is that these approaches differ greatly in terms of development pattern, performance, maintenance, prices, and a variety of other factors.

To make the right choice, you should clearly understand the Flutter peculiarities, its benefits, weaknesses and use cases.

So let’s conduct an in-depth comparison of Flutter and native apps to decide on what solution will work best for you!

What is Flutter?

To begin, let us introduce Flutter technology to you.

So, what is Flutter? In short, Flutter is a Google UI software development framework that allows you to rapidly and easily construct mobile apps for iOS and Android. It gained remarkable popularity rather quickly after its alpha release in May 2017, and the official stable version release in December 2018, as seen by the amount of stars it has on GitHub

According to a 2021 developer survey , Flutter is the most popular cross-platform mobile framework used by worldwide developers. Up to now it continues to rise, confirming the product's enduring popularity.

Flutter targets two important things:

  • SDK (Software Development Kit): A set of needed tools to help you develop apps. It includes tools to compile code to native machine code, (i.e. code for IOS and Android).
  • Framework (Widget-based User Interface Library): A collection of functional user interface elements (buttons, text inputs, sliders, etc.) that can be personalized to suit personal preferences. Flutter UI builder offers a distinct technological stack that distinguishes it from other cross-platform development tools. 

Flutter uses a programming language called Dart. It is also Google's language, and it was created in October 2011. However, it has also significantly improved in recent years. Dart was originally designed to replace JavaScript. It focuses on developing the layout of web pages, and it can easily be used to create mobile and web applications.

You've probably already seen the effects of Flutter's still-relatively-new history. Such popular apps as Alibaba , Google Ads , Groupon Merchant were built with the help of this technology. 

Benefits of using Flutter for mobile app development

Moving on to the benefits, let’s contemplate why you should try Flutter for developing your next project. Most significantly, Flutter is an open-source technology that is absolutely free to use, but there is more to it:

1. Convenient to use

Why Flutter? In Flutter mobile app development, you will discover a fantastic feature called “hot reload”— which allows the team to add new functionality, repair issues, and run experiments quickly. Hot reload is also extremely useful in developer-designer cooperation. Using it, you can easily transpose or experiment with an app's look, and review the results on the spot, making the mobile app development process more productive. These advantages are greatly enhanced with the Flutter JIT (Just in Time) compilation feature.

2. Great coding language

It's no secret that bringing programming languages to uniform standards is difficult, and different versions of these languages vary in functionality. Dart has a simple and strong syntax that creates the optimal circumstances for building a clear architecture and application design.

The following are the advantages of utilizing this language:

  • Excellent performance 
  • Simple to learn
  • Good tool support
  • Portable
  • Comes with good documentation  

3. No need for a lot of testing

You need less testing to check the level of functioning of every new version of a Flutter project, thus, less code to work with. When you have a distinct codebase for iOS and Android in native development, each new version of the program must be tested for both platforms. In Flutter, you can easily check if the new code works as intended and does not cause errors on a regular basis.

4. Faster time to market

Speed is an essential factor for success in the startup world. Since Flutter developers are more productive, it takes less time for them to produce a mobile app when compared to other programming languages and frameworks. Generally, you can create Flutter apps faster, and hit the market earlier with less effort. 

5. Smart and convenient UI design 

Flutter allows you to develop beautiful apps with expressive and adaptable user experience.  While pre-made UI components may limit branding options, Flutter technology enables developers to modify each component with platform-specific changes. All this is possible due to a layered architecture which was designed for quicker UI rendering and results in more customized and eye-catching designs.

In addition, Flutter provides its own widgets that match the Material Design and Cupertino aesthetics of Android and Apple exactly. The UI customization takes a lot of time in cross-platform development, while Flutter significantly shortens this process.

Weaknesses of Flutter

Although it is quite simple to learn how to develop Flutter apps, building a production-ready cross-platform project may require some native app development experience. And, that’s not the only pitfall of using Flutter. Despite all the benefits that this fantastic technology offers, there are a few weak spots that should be taken into account:

1. Animations issues

You may anticipate strong performance results if you follow Flutter's best practices throughout development. However, there is one performance problem that has lately received a lot of attention. In some cases, developers have discovered that animations in Flutter apps are choppy at the initial rendering, (iOS and Android both). This happens since Flutter currently only utilizes the Skia 2D graphics engine to render UI, and does not support 3D through OpenGL, ES or any other equivalent. This should be fixed soon though.

2. A small range of plugins and libraries

Being a relatively new software development kit, Flutter can’t compete with the major cross-platform technology React Native in terms of the scale and diversity of libraries in its ecosystem. It also offers a limited selection of plugins.

When your project requires a very specialized capability, it may be discovered that no third-party library exists to build it. Suitable libraries may be of poor quality, or no longer maintained. In such a scenario, you'll have to create your own plugin. What’s more, some components are only accessible for Android, which requires your developers to create a custom iOS version. 

3. Flutter apps need more space

Another disadvantage of utilizing Flutter, is that Flutter mobile apps are large and take a long time to start or load. This can degrade a user's experience, and is a sign of bad performance. An example assessment of a minimal Flutter app revealed that it generates 4.3 MB for ARM, and 4.6 MB for ARM 64.

What projects does Flutter suit? Use cases

First of all, Flutter is a perfect solution for projects with limited budgets. Flutter app development cuts the production costs significantly. Of course, projects can be different. In some cases, Flutter can save 15% of the budget, or even up to 50%. 

The second type of projects where Flutter comes in handy are the complex ones. Since Flutter is actively gaining more popularity, more and more people face the same problems and discuss them. Chances are you can get help from someone who had the same difficulty as you. So, together you’ll be able to overcome any challenges! 

Finally, Flutter is your best choice if you need to build an app fast. In case of the native app development, it takes some time to integrate changes and adapt the app for different platforms. With Flutter technology, you can save 20 to 50% of the developer's time , depending on the complexity and originality of the feature in question. This allows you to enter the market with your app much faster. 

Will Flutter replace native app development?

Many frameworks come and go in a lifetime. Flutter has already taken a solid position in mobile app development. Its growth rate in the world of cross-platform app development has surpassed its closest competitor, the React-Native framework. If you look at statistics, you’ll see that in 2021, Flutter usage has grown by 42%, compared to 30% growth in 2019. Does it mean that there is a high possibility that Flutter technology will replace native app development? Sounds realistic! Surely, native development in Java/Kotlin/Swift will continue to exist, but you may already expect the necessity of app migration and some essential market shifts. 

What’s more, Flutter has already positioned itself as the best UI design framework currently available on the market. It offers a great number of exclusive design features and widgets that can’t be found in native Android app development. And when it comes to setup, Flutter provides a simpler process thanks to Google's thorough documentation, and easy-to-use command-line interface. 

All these Flutter possibilities make analysts convinced that it has an enormous potential to replace Java in the mobile app development area. Thus, don’t miss a chance to use Flutter for cross-platform app development in 2021 and beyond. 

Conclusion

Flutter vs native mobile app development? You have already found out the number of Flutter benefits for app development and business processes. With a productive, flexible, and open development model, this technology will help you create attractive and advanced apps. After all, it's you who has to make the final decision.

Do you want to build your mobile app on Flutter? Mentalstack can provide you with a dedicated team of experienced Flutter developers. Contact us right now to get a custom quote for your project!

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